UPDATE: A Kid From Michigan Made It to the Spelling Bee Finals. Here’s How He Did.

Top, left to right: Brady Bowers (North Rockford Middle School), Anwesha Ahmed (Davison Elementary-Middle School), Clara Mervak (Northglade Montessori School) Bottom, left to right: Emily Demlow (Lakeview Middle School), Owen Smielewski (Ruth Fox Middle School), Aryan Khedkar (Baker Middle School)

By Isaac Constans

May 31, 2023

Michigan also had the fifth-highest total of competitors still around at the quarterfinal stage.

Update (11:30 a.m. June 2): 12-year-old Aryan Khedkar of Waterford made it to the finals along with 10 other contestants. He finished the competition tied in seventh as he and two other competitors misspelled words in the 12th round.

Children from grades four to eight competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee quarter- and semi-finals Wednesday, for what was surely a verbose vaudeville of etymological éclat. And as the dust settled, a 12-year-old from Waterford was one of 11 students still standing on stage.

Aryan Khedkar, a seventh grader who attends Baker Middle School, correctly spelled oblatio, a Latin word meaning to tender a payment of something due.

In the finals on Thursday night, Khedkar was one of the final five children on stage when he received the word pharetrone, a type of ocean sponge known for its thick walls. Khedkar misspelled the word ever so slightly, putting an “o” where he should have put an “e.”

Six Michiganders made it to the quarterfinal stage of the competition—the fifth most of any state or territory represented. 

Mostly from the US, 231 students flew to National Harbor, Maryland, to compete in the National Spelling Bee—which began Tuesday. Wednesday was the quarter- and semi-finals, which were the first televised legs of the competition. Five of six Michigan students fell in the competition yesterday, along with dozens of their peers as the Bee whittled down the field from 121 to 11 over the course of a day.

Here are the Michigan students who made it to the quarterfinals round, which consists of spelling and word meaning questions:

  • Emily Demlow, a 14-year-old eighth grader from Battle Creek. The Lakeview Middle School student has participated in spelling bees since fifth grade, runs track, and is an active volunteer for her church and community. She’s sponsored by SNSB Michigan and Ohio Regional Bee. 
  • Anwesha Ahmed, a 13-year-old eighth grader from Detroit who attends Davison Elementary-Middle School. She loves drawing and reading books. Anwesha is interested in mechanical engineering. She’s sponsored by WXYZ Channel 7. 
  • Brady Bowers, a 13-year-old seventh grader who attends North Rockford Middle School. Brady is interested in maps and geography and volunteers for Feeding America. He’s also a big Beatles fan. He’s sponsored by Kent ISD.
  • Clara Mervak, an 11-year-old fifth grader from Kalamazoo who attends Northglade Montessori School. She loves sports, particularly basketball and gymnastics. LeBron James is her favorite athlete. Her favorite subject is history. She’s sponsored by Discover Kalamazoo.
  • Owen Smielewski, a 13-year-old seventh grader who attends Ruth Fox Middle School in North Branch. Owen has a twin brother, and enjoys reading and playing video games. He also plays the trumpet. He’s sponsored by “The County Press” in Lapeer.
  • Aryan Khedkar, a 12-year-old seventh grader from Waterford who attends Baker Middle School. Aryan is a big fan of Harry Potter and enjoys solving Rubik’s Cubes. He plays bass clarinet and in his free time plays basketball with his friends. He’s sponsored by the Oakland Schools Education Foundation. 

Though this wasn’t his year, Khedkar can compete again next year as an eighth grader. And maybe he’ll follow in the footsteps of Louis Edward Sissman, a Detroiter who won the Bee in 1941.

We’ll update this article as results are released.


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